The tribe meets — what journalism is really about

By Caitlin Kelly

 

Cathaleen Curtis church

St. Mary’s Episcopal church, Arlington, Virginia, where the memorial service was held for Wallace McNamee, his childhood church.

Photo by Cathaleen Curtis, director of photography, the Buffalo News.

 

I’ve been a journalist since my first year at University of Toronto, and published in national magazines and newspapers since my third year there.

It’s my life — if you’re curious, here’s some of my work.

It’s a life that makes intellectual, physical and emotional demands specific to the business.

We, at our best, share a clear (rarely explicitly discussed) set of values that resonate for those working in nations with a free press — albeit also under the heavy hand of free-market capitalism that makes even the very best job temporary.

If you’ve worked in any form of hard news journalism especially, whether photo, video, digital, print, television or broadcast, you share with thousands of colleagues worldwide the same challenges and experiences:

— balancing the need for speed, to beat every possible competitor, with the need to be 100% accurate

— discerning the many lies and omissions and distortions fed to us by the powerful into a report that, we hope, will help our audiences better make sense of their world, whether climate change, new legislation, economic issues

— working with very few resources (low pay, no assistants or secretaries or researchers)

— entering a cut-throat world where there’s always someone younger and cheaper ready to grab our hard-won spot

— knowing your value is only as great as your last story, not the prizes, awards and fellowships you’ve also collected

— having to persuade scared, dubious, wary sources to share with us their data and images to help us tell our stories thoroughly

— sometimes working in conditions that are dangerous, or merely extremely uncomfortable (heat/rain/conflict zones/war zones/the aftermath of natural disasters)

It all creates a bond that runs deep and strong, knowing that everyone in the same room gets it.

 

We recognize it immediately in one another, members of a far-flung tribe. 

 

We tend to share characteristics: we’re self-reliant, funny, wary of draaaaaama, able to put strangers at ease quickly, brave, badasses, typically pretty humble, (because we all know someone who’s done similar work much better/sooner than we have!), willing to challenge any form of authority to get the story — and incessantly curious about the world, even after decades of examining it closely.

That can make meeting someone new, even one much younger or older, staff or freelance, editor or shooter or writer, as comfortable as meeting a familiar friend.

I’m the veteran of three major daily newspapers, the Globe & Mail (Canada’s national daily), the Montreal Gazette and the New York Daily News, and have written television news and thousands of articles for everyone from Reuters and bbc.com to Marie Claire.

And every day, like my colleagues, I now watch in dismay as our industry keeps firing people like me — people who know what we’re doing, people readers and viewers rely on.

In the past few weeks alone, Ontario towns lost 33 regional newspapers as they were closed down for good, and new owners fired the entire staff of the L.A. Weekly, a respected newspaper — instead asking its readers to offer unpaid work.

Seriously?

 

Wally by David Humer Kennerly

Wallace McNamee; photo by David Hume Kennerly

 

Last weekend, more than 200 veterans of our business, many of them white-haired, gathered in a church in Arlington, Virginia, for a memorial service for Wallace McNamee, one of American photojournalism’s greats.

If you’ve been looking at news photos, in any medium, you’ve seen his work; his, like many of them, were the eyes recording history: elections, assassinations, pop culture, war.

My husband, a career photographer and photo editor at The New York Times for 31 years, knew and worked alongside McNamee in D.C., as did many of the men and women there — some editors, some competitors, all of us gathered to share their love and respect.

Colleagues and friends arrived, as we did, from far away, former awed interns now running the nation’s largest photo agencies and choosing images for its most influential publications.

Two photographers I’d never met both told me the same thing about Wally: “I was the new kid in town. I didn’t know anything and he showed me the ropes.”

Not the typical image of the sharp-elbowed, conscience-free “journalist” you may be more accustomed to.

If you maintain the skewed, ignorant and toxic notion that “all news is fake”, I wish you’d been there in that small white church, sharing the crowded pews, to witness what, at its best, our business really is about.

 

Why Pulitzer Prizes still matter

By Caitlin Kelly

20131206081408
Pulitzer

This week the most coveted awards in journalism were given out, the prizes named for Joseph Pulitzer, a man born in Hungary in 1847 and who became a legendary publisher of major American newspapers; (pronounced Pull-itzer.)

It is a very big deal to win a Pulitzer Prize, both for the writers and photographers who win it for their individual, often team, efforts, but also for their editors and publishers.

It can take decades to win one, or, for the fortunate few, it arrives early in their careers. The photographer who’s won the most ever in journalism, four, is Carol Guzy, of The Washington Post — who began her career as a nurse.

In a time when our industry is struggling mightily — tens of thousands of us having been laid off in recent years — this sort of accolade is still something many of us strive for.

If you stay in journalism a few decades, you come to know, and sometimes work with, and possibly deeply admire, many colleagues, sometimes scattered globally. When they win, we’re also cheering for our tribe.

Here’s the list of all the 2017 winners, including history, poetry, drama and music.

One of my favorite stories of 2016, a stunning 18,102 word account of a young combat veteran, was written by The New York Times’ staff writer C.J. Chivers, himself a former Marine. He won the 2017 Pulitzer for feature writing.

His award is one of three Pulitzers awarded to the Times this year. Another went to Australian-born, New Delhi-based freelance photographer Daniel Berehulak for breaking news covering the drug war in the Philippines being waged by President Duterte. He also won the award in 2015 for feature photography for documenting the Ebola outbreak.

From his website:

Their Ukrainian practicality did not consider photography to be a viable trade to pursue so at an early age Daniel worked on the farm and at his father’s refrigeration company.

Not so surprising — journalism is still considered a terrible career choice by many parents: it’s professionally insecure, badly paid and sometimes dangerous.

It’s one of the many reasons we, (I’ve been a journalist for decades), are so proud of our colleagues who persist and succeed. It’s damn hard!

In an era of “fake news” and endless claims to the “truth”, we need media literate readers/listeners and viewers more than ever.

And we need smart, tough, determined reporters, whether visual or word-focused, and their editors and their publishers, to stay committed to strong, intelligent work of lasting value —- not just chase clicks and views.

IMG_20170411_131352660

David Farenthhold — we all knew he had this one in the bag — took the prize for National Reporting, on Trump, for The Washington Post.

In 1912, one year after Pulitzer’s death aboard his yacht, the Columbia School of Journalism was founded, and the first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded in 1917 under the supervision of the advisory board to which he had entrusted his mandate. Pulitzer envisioned an advisory board composed principally of newspaper publishers. Others would include the president of Columbia University and scholars, and “persons of distinction who are not journalists or editors.” Today, the 19-member board is composed mainly of leading editors or news executives. Four academics also serve, including the president of Columbia University and the dean of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

Also from the Pulitzer website:

What do Pulitzer Prize winners get when they win?

There are 21 Pulitzer categories. In 20 of those categories the winners receive a $10,000 cash award and a certificate. Only the winner in the Public Service category of the Journalism competition is awarded a gold medal. The Public Service prize is always awarded to a news organization, not an individual, although an individual may be named in the citation.

Selfishly, I have a deeply vested interest in the Pulitzers — as we have one in the family. It belongs to my husband, Jose R. Lopez, whose blog is here.

IMG_20170411_131322486

On 9/11, as fighter jets screamed over Manhattan and the Twin Towers fell, Jose was a team member of talented, fast-thinking, quick-acting New York Times photographers and photo editors covering it.

They won the Pulitzer that year for breaking news photography.

Jose, then a photo editor, (and former news photographer), literally turned his basement Brooklyn apartment, (the very day he was to move in with me and everything was already packed!) into a local Times bureau — scanning and transmitting images from his computer as photographers delivered their film to him.

There was no way to physically get into Manhattan from Brooklyn in time, to reach the Times‘ building that day.

On a day of confusion and terror and trauma, the Times team stayed calm and organized. Their job — our job — always, is to witness, testify, explain, share.

That’s what we do.

20131206081013
Columbia Journalism School

Princess, schmincess — a few very cool role models for a little girl

Loved this!

So my amazing daughter, Emma,  turned 5 last month, and I had been searching everywhere for new-creative inspiration for her 5yr pictures. I noticed quite a pattern of so many young girls dressing up as beautiful Disney Princesses, no matter where I looked 95% of the “ideas” were the “How to’s” of  how to dress your little girl like a Disney Princess…
It started me thinking about all the REAL women for my daughter to know about and look up too, REAL women who without ever meeting Emma have changed her life for the better. My daughter wasn’t born into royalty, but she was born into a country where she can now vote, become a doctor, a pilot, an astronaut, or even President if she wants and that’s what REALLY matters. I wanted her to know the value of these amazing women who had gone against everything so she can now have everything. We chose 5 women (five amazing and strong women), as it was her 5th birthday but there are thousands of unbelievable women (and girls) who have beat the odds and fought (and still fight) for their equal rights all over the world……..so let’s set aside the Barbie Dolls and the Disney Princesses for just a moment, and let’s show our girls the REAL women they can be.

The black and white photos of Emma, dressed and posed as Amelia Earhart, Coco Chanel, Susan B. Anthony, Helen Keller and Jane Goodall are charming, lovely and thought-provoking — taken by her mother, Austin, TX-based photographer Jaime Moore.

English: Helen Keller. Français : Helen Keller.
English: Helen Keller. Français : Helen Keller. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t have a daughter or even nieces to hang out with, but smart, powerful, high-achieving role models are huge for young girls, especially in cultures that tend to value women primarily or exclusively for being thin/pretty/docile/mothers.

It’s not easy to be a smart, ferociously determined young woman, and find a welcoming place in a larger world that is sharp-elbowed enough as it is.

Molly Ivins
Molly Ivins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing up, some of the women in my field of journalism who inspired me included contemporary photographers Susan Meiselas, Deborah Turbeville, and Jill Krementz (who I got to meet and shadow for a day, {also Kurt Vonnegut’s wife}) and other successful women journalists, from Molly Ivins and Nelly Bly and Margaret Bourke-White to war correspondents Marguerite Higgins and Martha Gellhorn, (also one of Hemingway’s wives).

Have you ever heard of Washington Post photographer Carol Guzy?

She has (so far!) won four Pulitzer Prizes:

As a young girl, Carol Guzy always wanted to be an artist. But as she was coming of age in a working-class family in Bethlehem, Pa., such an ambition seemed impossible. “Everyone I knew said, ‘Oh, if you’re an artist, you’ll starve,'” she recalls. “You have to do something really practical.'” So Guzy chose to go to nursing school. Halfway through she realized she would not, could not, be a nurse. “I was scared to death I was going to kill someone by making some stupid mistake,” she laughs. So while she was trying to figure out what to do with her life, a friend gave her a camera and she took a photography course. Her fascination with photography led to an internship and then a job at the Miami Herald. In 1988 she moved to The Post. Her photographs have won three Pulitzer Prizes and three Photographer of the Year awards in the National Press Photographers’ annual contest.

A long list of cool, brave women led the way so that I could do the work I enjoy. I admire the hell out of them and am grateful to them for speaking up and out and taking risks, both physical and professional.

Signature of Susan B Anthony
Signature of Susan B Anthony (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you have a role model growing up?

Who — and how did that affect you?

Tim Hetherington, war photographer in HBO doc April 18, 8:00 p.m. ET

By Caitlin Kelly

English: Tim Hetherington at a Hudson Union So...
English: Tim Hetherington at a Hudson Union Society event with Sebastian Junger, co-director of the Oscar-nominated, Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary, Restrepo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those of you not working in news journalism, or photojournalism, award-winning British photographer Tim Hetherington was only 40 when he was killed in Misrata, Libya with photographer Chris Hondros in April 2011.

It’s easy to forget — or not even really understand — that while soldiers are killed, or maimed and traumatized by fighting in war, so are journalists, photographers, videographers and their fixers and interpreters. You can’t phone in war photos, so those shooting with a camera are often as much in the line of fire, as much in harm’s way as the soldiers they are with.

It is a small and tightly-knit community of men and women war journalists who move from one conflict zone to the next, their helmets and Kevlar flak jackets ever at the ready.

Author, writer and film-maker Sebastian Junger, who lives in New York, gave this long and intimate radio interview yesterday on the Leonard Lopate show on WNYC. He made an award-winning war documentary, Restrepo, with Hetherington.

Here are some images of American soldiers by Hetherington at the International Center of Photography, on display until May 13.

Every journalist, journalism teacher and student of journalism needs to watch this film and know what news reporting can cost.

A life.

English: Tim Hetherington at a photo session i...
English: Tim Hetherington at a photo session in Huambo, Angola in 2002. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hope you’ll make time to watch this documentary and remember the sacrifice and bravery of those who witness war on our behalf.

We owe them our attention and respect.

Actually, this is the reporter’s job

Red Hook
Red Hook (Photo credit: mercurialn)

The New York Times’ new public editor’s last column praised the paper’s reporters and photographers for climbing stairs in the dark to find and interview and photograph victims of Hurricane Sandy:

That’s just one example among many in which Times reporters went to extraordinary lengths to get the stories of ordinary people’s suffering. I was equally struck by Cara Buckley’s and Michael Wilson’s’s front-page article about life without power in New York’s public housing projects.

It included this passage: “As light drained from the skies above the Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn on Thursday, Sharlyn Marin, 18, huffed her way up 140 steps to visit her godmother, Judith Rodriguez, on the 10th floor. Blind and in a wheelchair, Ms. Rodriguez, 62, relied on Ms. Marin as her sole conduit to the outside world.”

Such articles, involving shoe-leather reporting at its best, are not easy to get. The only way to get those scenes is to be there — in this case, to climb the stairs in a dark and dangerous housing project.

Ms. Buckley told me about her experience in an e-mail: “It’s actually a 14-story building, and the photographer, Ruth Fremson, and I went to the top twice and then worked our way down. No matter the time of day, the stairways were pitch black, windowless and without power.”

That’s their job.

These days, the expression “shoe leather” journalism seems unfamiliar to many reporters, especially those who came into the field assuming that Google has the answer to everything. Instead it means leaving the cozy, familiar newsroom and building and neighborhood. It means walking/climbing/hiking — doing whatever is necessary on foot (and by plane/car/bus/donkey/boat) — to get on-scene to witness and report the gritty details of a story.

It demands guts, street smarts, preparation — knowing what to wear and what to carry, finding and hiring fixers and drivers and interpreters.

Great reporters tells us what the air smells like, what the baby was eating, the color of the walls and the size of the windows. They capture tone, light, anecdote, vernacular, nuance. They bring us into that place and make us feel what those in that place are feeling, whether joy or terror. They smell the blood, sometimes even slipping in it.

They do not phone it in. They do not Google it or look at a Google map to see what the devastation looks like or watch it on TV or read it out of someone else’s story.

Great reporting on tough stories like this one mean getting, literally, down and dirty, joining the story where and when it’s happening. It means that reporters and photographers will indeed also end up hungry, thirsty, tired, sore and worn out  — like the people whose lives they’re there to describe to readers many miles away, safe and warm and dry.

Great journalism is fueled by compassion. Not every story requires it, obviously, but when reporting on war, poverty, violence, crime, natural disaster or medical mishap, a reporter unwilling to live it firsthand is only going to report a dessicated, sanitized version of the facts.

My husband and I have both done this sort of reporting work, I as a writer and he as a photographer. In winter, he spent six weeks covering the end of the Bosnian war. He had to sleep in an unheated metal cargo container and his Christmas meal was a small packet of dried soup. He and the reporter and their interpreter, their car car stuck, were towed out of a snowbank at dusk because Jose had thought to pack a carabiner in his luggage.

I’ve seen car windows sheeted with blood after a head-on collision, and — nauseated and terrified — walked toward the vehicle to see what make and model it was. I’ve walked across frozen fields, climbed muddy embankments, knelt on dirty floors.  I flew to Winnipeg, Edmonton and Toronto on a medical investigative story, and watched the women  I interviewed shake and cry as they related their misery to me. It was exhausting and emotionally draining for all of us.

That’s the point.

Shoe-leather reporting can also be lethal, killing legendary New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid last year, when he suffered a fatal asthma attack from the horses carrying him and his photographer across the Syrian border; the photographer, Tyler Hicks, carried his dead body into Turkey.

It killed photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros last year in Libya and it killed Marie Colvin, the American-born journalist working for the London Sunday Times. She had already been blinded in one eye by shrapnel while working in Sri Lanka.
Here’s a great profile of this amazing woman, in the August 2012 issue of Vanity Fair.

Stony Brook University, on Long Island, NY, is raising $1 million in her memory to fund its Journalism Without Walls program, which sends young reporters into the field.

Boots-on-the-ground detail-gathering is what readers need and deserve.

It’s necessary for us to truly understand our world.

It’s what we should expect.

Honoring brave journalists with the annual Dart Center Awards

journalists_guide_to_firearms_ak47_glock1
journalists_guide_to_firearms_ak47_glock1 (Photo credit: gnotalex)

It’s a fact easily overlooked — the news we read and hear and watch is brought to us by human beings with hearts.

Some of the stories they gather, and some of the very best in my view, are the ones we skip over because they’re dark, disturbing and deeply painful.

Journalists who gather this material often end up suffering from a condition known as “secondary trauma” which can cause insomnia, nightmares, anxiety and depression. It’s a form of PTSD, which soldiers experience after the violence and brutality of war. I experienced it myself after writing my first book about American women and guns, after steeping myself in reports and interviews of violence, suicide and homicide for months.

A female friend who returned from Haiti after reporting there for weeks began telling her Facebook friends she couldn’t sleep, night after night. I suggested her insomnia was quite likely the result of secondary trauma. Another female friend wrote a searing book about MRSA, the flesh-eating infection, and she too experienced the aftereffects of recounting terrible stories, receiving a Dart Center fellowship to deal with it.

Most journalists aren’t trained in any way to know that this even exists. They work in, or return to, newsrooms filled with colleagues who have no experience or understanding of the horrors they may have seen, smelled, heard or survived, and few bosses with training to recognize or handle it either.

The very compassion and empathy that leads journalists into this tough work can also leave them shattered by it.

The Dart Center is an American non-profit organization whose focus is helping journalists prepare for, and recover from, reporting stories of this nature. I admire them and the men and women who do this work.

A panel discussion is being held tonight from 6 to 8pm at the Columbia School of Journalism in New York City honoring this year’s winners.

From the Dart Center website:

The New York Times received the Dart Award for “Punched Out: The Life and Death of a Hockey Enforcer.” (John Branch, reporter; Marcus Yam, photographer; Shayla Harris, videojournalist; Josh Williams, multimedia producer.) This searing three-part investigative series tells the story of Derek Boogaard, one of the N.H.L.’s most feared “enforcers,” who died with massive brain injuries at age 28. The series reveals the consequences – physical, psychological and social – of the adulation of violence surrounding the sport.

Judges called “Punched Out: The Life and Death of a Hockey Enforcer” a “groundbreaking” and “exemplary piece of accountability journalism.” They praised Branch for his “masterful storytelling” and “tender objectivity,” and for focusing on “human beings, science and anguish instead of thrill, agony and defeat.” They commended the series for “taking on the sports page” and “drawing attention to sanctioned violence of fans.” Judges also recognized the far-reaching, and wide-ranging impact of the series that has made it nearly impossible for those most vested in hockey to turn a blind eye to its cruel reality and disastrous impact.

WNYC received the Dart Award for “Living 9/11,” which was presented by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange (Marianne McCune, reporter and producer; Emily Botein, producer; Karen Frillman, editor; Fred Mogul and Beth Fertig, reporters; Eric Leinung, Jillian Suarez, Erin Reeg, Norhan Basuni, Radio Rookies; Courtney Stein, Sanda Htyte, Radio Rookies producers; Kaari Pitkin, Radio Rookies senior producer; Chris Bannon, executive producer; Andy Lanset, original 9/11 recordings; John Ellis, composer; Paul Schneider and Jim Briggs III, mix engineers.) This hour-long documentary guides listeners through the stories of people who were deeply affected by the September 11, 2001 attacks and who are still struggling to make sense of the events.  The documentary is built around a diverse range of viewpoints, capturing visceral and immediate emotional reactions to the attacks while also illuminating universal truths about 9/11’s lasting impact.

Judges called “Living 9/11” “insightful,” “hard-hitting” and “deeply sensitive,” going far beyond more conventional anniversary programs in its integration of history, science and narrative.

The Touch of Fire

If we’re lucky, at some point in our lives, we’ll feel the touch of fire — time spent with someone so inspiring, accomplished and genuinely interested in us and our talents, however latent — that brands us forever.

It’s happened to me twice (so far) in my life, both when I was in my mid-20s. The first was on my fellowship in Paris, founded and run by a charismatic, bossy, imperious, charming legend named Philippe Viannay. The man, even then in his 60s, dressed elegantly, laughed often and had created more social value in his lifetime than almost anyone I’ve had the privilege to meet since: he was a Resistance hero; co-founded a major newspaper; founded a home for wayward boys; founded a sailing school; ran a journalism school and, (whew) founded and ran Journalists in Europe, the program that chose me and changed my life and worldview forever.

We had an immediate rapport, and he introduced me to everyone as “le terrible Caitlin!” I was deeply offended until I realized it meant terrific. The fellowship changed everything for me: how I felt about myself as a person, as a writer, showed me I could thrive in another language and culture. I’m honored to have known him, and that he shared some of his time with me.

When I returned to my native Toronto, and got my dream job as a writer for The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, I briefly met Jill Krementz, a photographer whose work is well-known to Americans, and the widow of writer Kurt Vonnegut. She came to Toronto for a day-long photo shoot for a book called A Day in the Life of Canada and, as a reporter, I shadowed her throughout the entire day.

I’d started my career eager to become a photographer and then — in the mid 1980s — there were relatively few women working at her level in that field. The notion of meeting her, let alone spending an entire day with one of my idols? Swoon!

It was amazing to me, (even with parents working in film and television), that people of this stature would make time to talk to me, get to know me a bit, share some of their wisdom and insight. At the end of the day, back when shooters used film, Krementz sat cross-legged on her hotel bed as she counted film canisters, and I pelted her with questions about her career and how she’d achieved what she had. She was tough as nails. Is that what it would take?

(Yes!)

I have a young friend in Tucson, far from the bright lights and easy professional contacts of a New York, Los Angeles, London or Paris. Roxana is quiet, pretty, soft-spoken, Hispanic, not a culture that necessarily “gets” a young woman eager to sell her news photos for a living. In her social circles, the odds of meeting a world-famous, globe-trotting star of her industry is slim-to-none.

But she did, and her meeting with Chris Hondros — killed April 20, 2011 in Misrata, Libya while on assignment– touched her deeply. They spoke, emailed, stayed in touch.

With her permission, I include her account of this amazing and life-changing experience:

In 2007,  my first semester in journalism, I took an ethics course. One day we were viewing one of Chris Hondros’ famous pictures, the one with a little girl covered in blood where all you can see next to her are the boots of a soldier. Powerful, powerful image and story.

We were discussing in class about how it should be published. My opinion was front page and in color — people need to know. For the course I decided to write my report on war photography and focus on Hondros’ work. One day, I friended him on Facebook just in case. Maybe I would be able to ask him some questions personally instead of citing a book.

Five minutes later, he messaged me back. He wrote, “Perfect timing.” He was going to be in Tucson a few days working on an economy piece for Getty Images. I was so excited, I jumped from my chair, smiling ear to ear.

Minutes later we were talking on the phone and I was helping him with information about Tucson, while another of my friends, also a great photojournalist, James Gregg, teamed up to help Hondros find what he was looking for. When he arrived it was like meeting a celebrity.  He was in Tucson for four days. I went out photographing with him one afternoon and felt so lucky. I kept blushing and was nervous.

But Hondros was so down-to-earth. Every time I asked him about his work he gave short answers, very to the point. He was more interested in talking about my work.

The last night he was in town we had coffee and I brought my work for him to see it. It was my first real news portfolio, mostly pictures taken for my college paper. I was very nervous. He glanced at them very quickly closed the book and kept talking about something else — before we left I asked him about my work. “It’s a first portfolio. Mine was bad when I started.” We laughed.

But he told me that I was very passionate and he believed that I would become better. We walked to his hotel, he gave me a huge hug and told if I was ever in New York City to look him up.

I don’t have a picture of me and him, and I wish I did. I felt too embarrassed to ask.

I never knew that I wouldn’t see him again.

After that visit I was in constant contact with him through Facebook, email, sometimes Skype. We chatted online when he was sent to Baghdad, or Afghanistan on assignment and I was always picking his brains.

The last portfolio I sent him to see, he said it looked good and sharp. He once told me that when I was ready he would take me to Getty Images. I was honest with him and shared my frustrations with journalism and finding a place to publish me. He would tell me not to give up on photography because I was good at it.

The day he died was so tough for me. I had never had anyone close to me die so suddenly.  I turned on CNN and there it was Tim Hetherington, confirmed dead, but Chris was still in critical condition. At the same time I was chatting online with a photographer from Kosovo living in France. He knew Chris too, and had helped him in Kosovo.

This community of war photographers and foreign journalist is small. Most know each other, and I’m so glad to be linked to them.

I prayed for Chris all morning and I didn’t leave my house. The hardest moment was seeing the woman on CNN say, “We have confirmed that Chris Hondros has died.” My mom held me tight.

I had spoken to him a couple of weeks earlier when he was in Cairo covering the revolution. All I could think of was our last chat. I didn’t think that he would leave so soon. I miss him so much. I still feel that he’s still out there photographing the world.

He is my drive and inspiration.

Have you been touched along the way by someone like this?

What effect did it have on you or your career?

Want Your Photo In The NYT Business Section? Here's One Way In

NY Times Building
Image by jebb via Flickr

It can happen.

You’re an ambitious young photographer, but still in university or a fresh grad. You read — (you do, of course) — every agate/photo credit for every major photo moved by the wires and the agencies and the major papers — wondering when it’s your turn.

For two terrific young women, Samantha Sais and Marie deJesus, their dream came true this week, Sam’s photo illustrating a story about a Tucson  man who’d successfully fought off bill collectors and Marie’s of a coffee-shop owner in San Juan, PR, unable to get a business loan. It happened because they were chosen to participate in The New York Times Student Journalism institute, open every year only to student members of the NAHJ or NABJ.

Winners get paid to spend two weeks working closely with top editors from the Times and other regional papers, so when a shooter is needed and there’s a talented student in that town, they’ve got a good shot at the assignment.

The editor who assigned to both women — my sweetie. I’m proud of his commitment to finding and nurturing the next generation of talent, regardless of age or gender. Talent — and making the right contacts — can be enough.

Meet Diego Robles, the Denver Post's youngest and award winning photographer

DENVER - FEBRUARY 27: A passerby walks in fron...
His new office...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

For anyone who loves great documentary photography — here’s its future — the four student winners, first place and three awards of excellence, from the White House News Photographers Association, whose annual gala dinner is in D.C. May 15.

The winner is Diego James Robles, just hired by the Denver Post, at 25, as a staff photographer. The awards of excellence went to three young men, two from Western Kentucky University and one from the Corcoran College of Art and Design. Their images are also powerful, moving, spectacular — see number 15 in Chris Jones’ photo-essay on a small child with cancer.

I met Diego this January when he was chosen to join The New York Times Student Institute just as he was starting to collect an astonishing pile of awards:

*White House News Photographers Association 2009 Student Photographer of the Year, March 2010
*Ohio News Photographers Association 2009 Student Photographer of the Year, March 2010
*Alexia Foundation Student Award of Excellence, March 2010
*Press Photographers Association of Greater Los Angeles 2009 Student Photographer of the Year, March 2010
*1st Place Hearst Competition II: News/Sports, February, 2010

That’s after winning:

*Gold, Sports Feature, College Photographer of the Year, Nov. 2009
*Award of Excellence, Portfolio, College Photographer of the Year, Nov. 2009
*1st Place, Week’s Work/Student Portfolio, Sports Shooter, Aug. 2009
*Pepsi Leadership Scholarship, Ohio University, May 2009
*Ohio News Photographers Association 2008 Student Photographer of the Year, March 2009
*The California Chicano News Media Association Scholarship, Aug. 2008
*Chips Quinn Scholar, Feb. 2008

A military veteran, Diego remains calm, low-key, quiet, soft-spoken. And driven.

Here’s my interview with him:

Tell us a little bit about your history

I am originally from a suburb of Los Angeles, Torrance. When I was in the fourth grade, we moved to Orange County. I attended high school, like Tiger Woods, in Anaheim’s Western High School. My parents are both retired lawyers. My stepfather, the man who raised me, is a retired machinist.

How did you become a photographer?

Nobody in my family is a journalist but I am the first of many. Well, I got into photography when I was twenty. I was deployed with the army in Kosovo. I was slightly injured in the mountains of Serbia and I was forced to go back to our forward operating base and recover for a short time. There, a really goofy, funny army friend of mine had an old fully manual SLR camera (a big camera with interchangeable lens). He let me borrow it for maybe 10 seconds and I was automatically hooked. I thought the prism and shutter mechanism were the coolest thing ever. I immediately bought an entry level SLR on eBay and started shooting everything…except people. I think a lot of people start like this actually. My parents didn’t know for a long time that I was into photography. I think they were just worried that my job was dangerous. In retrospect, I think I was always into making images. I liked to draw and paint throughout my school days; still do a little bit. When my family went on summer vacations, I was always the photographer but my parents didn’t encourage it since I was always taking wacky pictures, mis-loading film, and jamming the mechanics in some way.

When and why did you join the military? How did this shape how you think and work?

I joined the military after high school. A very influential high school teacher of mine was a former Marine and was wounded several times in Vietnam. He showed us one of his platoon photographs, before everybody but him was killed in action. That had an affect on me. I went to Kosovo and some other places in Europe. I was deployed for close to two years but served another four or so inactive or active in some form. I have the army to thank for many of the good qualities I have and maybe some of the bad habits too. I eventually switched from the infantry to public affairs, basically the journalism/propaganda arm of the military and I learned a lot. Those guys worked hard and sacrificed their bodies for the shot. I also learned how to write which comes in handy when I apply for grants and write proposals.

Which photographers’ work do you most admire and why?

I admire a lot of different photographers out there. I admire the intimacy and cleanness of Carolyn Cole’s conflict images for Los Angeles Times. Having worked on Native American reservations, I deeply admire the photography of Edward Curtis and his devotion to the craft. Others I greatly admire are Shaul Schwarz, John Moore and Vince Musi.

What do you want viewers to take from your work?

I want viewers to feel something when they look at my work. Anything will do. Photographs don’t always have to be intimate and meaningful. To draw a laugh or a tear is a great honor. So any kind of reaction or emotion response is okay with me. Hopefully, they’ll want to see more.

What do most enjoy about shooting?

Right now I am completely obsessed with portraiture. I love to plan, execute and edit environmental portraits. However, it’s not what I do best and I wish mine were more intimate like fellow Ohio University photographer, Peter Hoffman. However, I really enjoy quirky photo-stories about people with interesting jobs and complicated personal relationships.

What do you least enjoy shooting?

I am not a fan of shooting meetings or poorly lit high school basketball games. Also I loath shooting anything about ghosts, ghost hunters or anything involving the paranormal. It’s always the same photographs of somebody looking at a “energy detection” gadget and inebitably, when the photographs are published, somebody will find a ghost in the pictures.

Tell us about all these awards!

I have been pleasantly surprised by my recent success this year. I’d always won something here or there, even in the army but this year has been special. It feels funny because all the awards are for last year’s work as a senior and I know this year’s stuff, so far, is not as good. I am also very surprised about doing well in major competitions especially since there are photographers way more talented and experienced than me.

Tell us what you learned about shooting at college

I learned most of what I know as a photographer in Ohio University. I think it was a great combination of talented passionate instructors paired with the best talent in the nation. The atmosphere was highly competitive and inspiring. Although successful and talented people will always find a way to rise to the top, I don’t think I would have been as successful, not even close, if I had gone somewhere else.

What advice would you offer to other young shooters?

The best advice anybody gave me was decide what kind of photographer you want to be. This will determine what you need to do and what kind of life you will have. As you climb the ladder and everybody works hard, has talent and is creative, you realize the separating power of sacrifice.

Why does sacrifice matter when achieving excellence?

Sacrifice is something I learned in the army. You sacrifice yourself for the well-being of the unit and the success of the mission. I sacrificed much in Ohio. I sacrificed personal relationships with friends and girlfriends. I never went out to parties and bars but not because I didn’t like my peers but because I am so obsessed with the craft of photography.

The digital revolution has turned photography and photojournalism on its head. I am a product of it. If it wasn’t so easy to take hundreds and now thousands of photographs in one sitting, I don’t know if I would have gotten into it. My first SLR was a digital and I didn’t shoot any film until I got to college. I believe digital has made a lot of people think photography is easy. However, digital has flooded the market and internet with really bad photographs by the millions. The relative cheapness of digital, once you make the ridiculously expensive initial investment, has allowed people to get better and improve their photography. I’m all for it and thankful of its emergence but am slightly uncomfortable with overall drop in photographic quality.

Tell us about the Denver Post — how did you get such a great first job in a recession right out of school?

There are about 15 photographers on staff at The Denver Post. I am by far the youngest and greenest of them all. I don’t know how they found me. The director of the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University told me my name came up when my boss, Tim Rasmussen,  was looking to hire somebody. However, I am unaware if he knew of me beforehand. I think I had a total of three phone interviews. The last one was a telephone conference with most of the staff. I didn’t know what to expect so I was just myself and tried to be as honest as I could. I detailed both my strength and weakness. I told them who I am as a photographer and what I am all about.

Anything you want to add?

The photographic life is worth living but the photography itself has to be the reward and ultimate endgame.

South Africa's Abused Children — And The Woman Photographer Who Tells Their Stories

Herself a victim of sexual abuse, Mariella Furrer bears witness to the emotional and physical pain of these young children.

From The New York Times‘ terrific photo blog, Lens:

For more than seven years, Ms. Furrer has been involved with a project so draining that she has had to seek medical help. Photographing young victims of sexual abuse in South Africa would be difficult for anyone, but Ms. Furrer, 41, is herself a victim of sexual abuse.

“There’s just no way that you can do a project like this and not be deeply, deeply affected on every level,” she said. “Emotionally, spiritually, physically.”

As part of her project, which will be published as a book this fall, Ms. Furrer has spent much of her time observing interviews conducted by the South African police with children who reported abuse. She often posed a few questions of her own, sitting on the floor so children didn’t feel threatened or obliged to speak. If they cried, she held their hands.

DESCRIPTIONMariella Furrer A young boy cries at his classmate’s memorial service.

An estimated 50 child rapes are reported daily in South Africa, Ms. Furrer said, but children’s rights advocates activists believe the actual rate could be much higher. On an average day, she said, two to eight children visit a local police station to report abuse.

Having finished gathering material for her book, Ms. Furrer is developing a global fundraising campaign and a Web site to raise awareness of child sexual abuse. She also continues to document some of the children she has come across in South Africa.

I began my journalism career as a photographer, and still shoot for work and for pleasure; my partner is a photo editor and photographer and our home is filled with images, his, mine and some iconic ones by his former friends and colleagues, like Bernie Boston’s young man placing a flower into the barrel of a rifle or George Thames’ well-known image of President Kennedy standing in front of the Oval Office windows.

We love and value great visual journalism — as powerful, often much more —  as written.